Astral Chain (Switch): COMPLETED!

I always like the idea of Platinum games, with their amazing combat and bonkers stories, but I rarely hold them in the high regard a lot of other people seem to. Bayonetta is a great game, but is it worth the heaps of praise it gets? I’m not sure. The Wonderful 101 was, well, Wonderful, but it was a way from perfect despite the reviews.

Astral Chain, though, is really something special. I think, being half “adventure” and half combat has helped, with the story and setting being allowed to shine via the slower paced police work. The combat is complicated and rewarding, and reminds me a lot of the way you control your heroes in The Wonderful 101, as they’re in a chain of sorts, as your Legion here is chained to you. You’re almost as acrobatic as Bayonetta, and there’s also a couple of motorbike sections like that game, but they’re thankfully much better executed (and looking) in Astral Chain.

The adventure sections provide a fair bit of humour, with silly police missions like cat and balloon rescue interspersed with more serious stuff. In the early levels, the combat (especially against larger enemies) tends to take place in the sparsely rendered astral plane and sometimes your police investigations drag you there. It’s a neat way of both providing a large open area to fight in, rather than the enclosed streets of The Ark, and to reduce the number of scenery polygons needed to be pushed around so the big foes can look incredible. It’s a very, very good looking game, especially for a Switch game.

I wasn’t going to buy Astral Chain, but I saw it really cheap and picked it up on a whim, and I’m glad I did. I hope too that the world teasing in the epilogue, coupled with how well this sold, will mean we get a sequel.

Vice: Project Doom (Switch): COMPLETED!

I’d never heard of this game before, and I only gave it a go as I noticed it on the NES Online service thing on the Switch today. Surprisingly, it was actually pretty good.

I say surprisingly, because it very much reminded me of two terrible games I’ve played recently: ESWAT and Ninja Gaiden. Somehow, though, it’s much, much better than either of those. It has the same sort of platforming, bosses, and even a plot not too dissimilar to Ninja Gaiden, as well as interstitial dialogue like both other games. It plays much better, though, with tighter collision detection and baddies that don’t constantly respawn if you move one pixel back and forth.

As well as the platforming, there are a couple of Spy Hunter-like driving sections. These aren’t great, and actually play out more like a vertical shooter than a driving game, but they’re easy and quickly over. There are also a few Operation Wolf style shooting levels, which are OK but obviously suffer a bit as you can’t use a lightgun.

So yeah, it was surprising. Not the best NES game by any means, but above average and I’m amazed I’d never seen it until today.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Switch): COMPLETED!

It can’t be that long ago when I last played the original (well, DX) version of Link’s Awakening, I thought to myself. After all, I remember most of what I’m supposed to be doing. It turns out it was more than eight years ago. It also turns out I’d not remembered quite as much as I’d thought.

This Switch version is a shot-for-shot remake of Link’s Awakening DX. All the same enemies, all the same weapons, all the same characters, and the exact same map. What has changed only modifies things. Most obviously, there are the new tilt-shift rendered toy-like graphics, with everyone looking like little plastic dolls. It works really well. Then there’s the continually scrolling world, rather than being flip-screen (apart from in dungeons – some rooms still switch) which actually makes the game map appear somewhat smaller than I remember.

Of course sound in massively improved too, but the other big change is the controls. On the Game Boy, you only had two buttons – A and B – to use weapons. You kept having to go into the menu and swap them out. This was pretty tedious, especially if you needed three weapons at once, and out of sheer laziness meant that the shield rarely got used. In the Switch version, some weapons are permanently tied to buttons, which means you can always use your sword, shield and pegasus boots without swapping them in, and you still have two action buttons for other things. I generally found keeping Roc’s feather on Y and then just changing the use of X when needed worked best for me. Having a shield at all times makes the game one hell of a lot easier.

In fact, I found the whole game very, very easy, only dying twice. Of course, some is down to the shield and easier controls, but no doubt much is because I remembered a lot of where I needed to go and what to do. Although I did lose Marin for a while which made me think there was a bug. There wasn’t – I had just lost her.

As much as I really enjoyed the game, and I must stress that it is really good, I can’t help think how good Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons would be using this engine, as they’re even better than Link’s Awakening. I’m hoping they do those before Breath of the Wild 2!

Untitled Goose Game (Switch): COMPLETED!

Being a horrible goose is the best. And oh what a horrible goose you can be. I mean, you can’t kill anyone or anything (at least, I couldn’t when I tried), but you can make everyone’s life hell for a bit by stealing their stuff, breaking their stuff, and using their stuff to cause them stress and and upset.

You’d be upset too if a goose chucked your lunch in a lake, or took a stool away from you just as you sat down.

It’s not a hard game, nor is it a long game, but it’s a unique, silly and very funny game. Think Hitman crossed with Metal Gear Solid only you’re a goose and instead of killing anyone you have to steal toilet paper and break a dart board.

I’ve completed it (which took about an hour), but that unlocked a sort of New Game+ with a load more objectives, so I’m definitely going to go back in and do those.

Adventures of Bertram Fiddle Episode 1: A Dreadly Business (Switch): COMPLETED!

I started this about a month ago, but totally forgot I was playing it. Then I realised that Untitled Goose Game and Link’s Awakening were out tomorrow and I remembered I had some unfinished stuff to do first. Turns out I was very near the end anyway.

Bertram Fiddle is a point and click adventure game set in Victorian London, complete with mutton chops and Sherlock Holmes and a murder with a severed head as a clue. Bertram himself is a mostly incompetent detective slash adventurer, and he takes it upon himself to solve the murder.

Since it’s a point and click game, I couldn’t help comparing it to The Secret of Woolley Mountain, which I played recently. That game had more puzzles in it, and felt a bit longer, but suffered a little graphically and with variably successful voice acting. The art in Bertram Fiddle is much better and the spoken dialogue is much, much better. The humour and gameplay of both games is great though.

Anyway, I’ll be getting Episode 2 from the eShop next time it’s on offer (which, given Astral Chain, Untitled Goose Game and Link’s Awakening are all being played is hopefully not too soon) and if you’re a fan of this genre then Bertram Fiddle is definitely worth your time.

River City Girls (Switch): COMPLETED!

Probably my favourite side scrolling beat ’em up of all time is the Scott Pilgrim Vs The World game on the Xbox 360. Although I still have it on my console, it has now been delisted, so can’t be bought any more. What I liked about it, aside from bloody everything, is the upgrades and food items you could buy – just like in the NES River City Ransom game it is clearly a Scott Pilgrim themed homage to.

So when they announced River City Girls, which is literally a followup to River City Ransom, which also has modern pixel graphics like – or actually, surpassing – Scott Pilgrim, AND it was being developed by Wayforward, one of my favourite devs, I couldn’t not get it, could I. So I did. Immediately it was released.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem you can play the arcade games. Or can you?

And today, after playing through it completely in co-op with my daughter, we completed it. And it was incredible.

Even more incredible than I was expecting or hoping for. From the fantastic graphics and animation, to the perfect voice acting, the humour, the cut scenes, the manga comic flashbacks, and such a brilliant sound track – plus of course the punching people in the face which is so well executed and with so many unlockable moves it never ceases to be enjoyable.

The floor is la–uh, lots of toys you shouldn’t stand on.

There are boss fights that seem impossible, but which then aren’t after you’ve nailed the tells and routines, bonus missions for the creepy Godai, and – and! – toilets. The game literally has all the things I want from a game. And now we have unlocked… spoilers… and there are still some hidden statues to smash and a new game mode to start, there’s still more to do.

Wonder Boy in Monster Land (Switch): COMPLETED!

I thought I’d completed the Master System version of this a few months ago, but it turns out it was actually May last year. How time flies! This version is the Sega Ages remaster of the original arcade version, which I’d expected to be virtually the same as the Master System on (albeit with better graphics), and although it was very similar the differences still threw me.

For a start, it’s a lot harder. Like, several difficulty levels harder. This is for a number of reasons, not least that the timer runs down much more quickly and unless you’re legging it through the levels at full pelt (which you can’t do) you will definitely lose a lot of health – you lose a heart every time the egg timer runs out. The bosses also seem to require many, many more hits. Even with the best sword in the game, they’re just sponges. Then there seem to be more, and trickier, levels too.

This is probably the hardest boss in the game. He chucks out smaller clones who then chuck ice at you.

But it has some features the Master System didn’t. You can continue when you die, which is more than useful (until the final level where they don’t let you any more), and if you decide to restart the game from scratch, this Sega Ages version allows you to start with the equipment you had previously. This means you can get hold of the best armour, boots, shield and sword much more easily. As I said though, the bosses are so hard that doesn’t help with them so much.

When I finally reached the final level I had the choice of getting the bell (to find my way through the maze) and the ruby (to make the final boss a lot easier). I went with the ruby and hoped I could remember the route. Thankfully, I could! The dragon wasn’t too hard (way easier than bouncing mushroom guy or Snow Cong & Chums, for sure), and then the game was over.

He does that thing where when he’s dead he just changes form and you have to fight him again. Sigh.

PictoQuest: The Cursed Grids (Switch): COMPLETED!

It’s another picross game! But this one is different! And isn’t by Jupiter!

Sure, it’s still picross. PictoQuest adds light RPG elements to the formula though, with items and powerups and baddies to “fight” by completing rows and columns in the grids.

Which all sounds perfect, until I completed it and realised I’d totally ignored absolutely everything to do with the RPG stuff as it’s entirely unnecessary and does nothing. Sure, perhaps if you’re very, very, very slow completing the levels there’s a slim chance you might die, but other than that this is almost exactly like a Jupiter picross game. I didn’t use a single item, die, or even pay attention to what the baddies were doing. I did buy the extra hearts from the shop mainly as something to spend my accrued money on, but I didn’t need them as I was rarely damaged.

As a picross game, though, it’s great. It’s just everything else that’s pointless.

The Lego Movie 2 Videogame (Switch): COMPLETED!

Yes, it’s another Lego game. Which means that it’s the same as all the other Lego games, right? Well, no actually. In several important ways.

Of course, the basic gameplay is mostly unchanged. You go around a level, solve little puzzles and generally smash everything you come across, but this game (and it’s possible the Lego Incredibles and Lego DC Super Villains do the same – I’ve yet to play them) is more open world and far less linear than previous Lego titles. Rather than levels, as such, you have a number of planets. Each has a pretty large unrestricted area to explore, with a number of “missions” in each – find items, do fetch quests, kill X number of baddies, and so on.

Instead of gold bricks, there are now purple sparkly bricks to collect. On each world you need a number of these to progress to the next, and they can be obtained from missions as well as found hidden – and not so hidden – around the map. Red bricks are gone, replaced with special items you can collect that do similar things to the red bricks (2x multiplier, shield, “super” weapons, etc.) but you can’t use them all at the same time.

Also new to the series is the ability to build things. You’d think, being Lego, that would have been there all along – but in fact previously you could only build pre-determined items in pre-determined places. Here, once you have the blueprint, you can build what you want pretty much anywhere. Most things are small and provide specific functions – a generator, a water sprinkler, a trampoline, various vehicles – but there are huge structures that are of use on one almost-empty world that you need to populate.

Perhaps the biggest change, however, is you don’t need different characters to do certain tasks. Before, you’d need a character with a gun to shoot targets, or a character with super-strength to break certain objects. Part of the game would be unlocking all these characters, but in The Lego Movie 2 Videogame, it seems every character can do everything – one you’ve unlocked the skills through the story anyway. It streamlines things but loses a bit of what makes a Lego game a Lego game, I think.

Speaking of the story, it vaguely follows the plot of the film although almost as a sort of side story, spending lots of time on bits that barely got screen time, or entire sections I don’t remember from the film at all. Maybe it was based on an early draft of the screenplay, or perhaps they added bits to flesh it out? It’s also not as funny as either the film or other Lego games. There are no jokes, no silliness, and a lack of random pigs, sausages and toilets. And I’m serious in that this takes a lot away from the game, especially since the source material is supposed to be funny. You could forgive Lego Jurassic World or something not having jokes (but it did), but you can’t here.

Finally, it’s short. Very short. Way back when, the likes of Lego Star Wars III or Lego Marvel Super Heroes would take 30+ hours just to finish the story (albeit with a good 30 more to 100% it). More recently, 10-12 hours (with about 10-12 more) seemed to be the length. This game, however, I completed in co-op in under 5 hours. That’s really, really short for a Lego game. Almost one sitting, in fact. Yes, we’re only 40% complete, but even then that implies 12-13 hours total for 100%. Perhaps the open-world nature of it, when played in two player so both are achieving different goals at the same time, might be some of the reason.

All that said, it still plays really well. I like some of the new stuff, I don’t really like the changes to how characters work or the lack of humour, but it’s still a good game. Just not one of the better Lego games. Also: it’s “video game” not “videogame”, TT Games/Lego/Warner/whoever.

Alex Kidd in Miracle World (Switch): COMPLETED!

As I got closer to the end of this game, I realised that I’d almost certainly never completed it. I recognised every level up until the 7th one (in the cave), and then have vague memories of a castle, but I think the castle memory may even have come from the Mega Drive Alex Kidd game.

Hardest. Screen. Ever.

I also realised why I don’t think I’ve completed it. There are a few tricky sections (the one near the end with the spikes in the water can do one, for example), but the main reason was that winning relies entirely on luck! The janken matches are seemingly random, and you’ve no way of telling what your opponent is going to choose. At least in Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle there’s a power up that lets you see what they’re thinking, but in the Master System version? It’s all guesswork.

Helicycle levels are so easy – as long as you don’t crash.

Other than that, it’s a pretty decent game. Alex slides all over the place as he has weird physics and friction, and the collision detection is a bit rubbish (the octopus and the samurai bosses in particular). The question mark blocks are also almost always worth ignoring too, meaning they’re pointless – most of the time they have that baddie that just homes in on you, so it’s not worth the risk.

Not the best Sega Ages re-release on the Switch, but I got it in a sale so I’m not disappointed.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (Switch): COMPLETED!

A lot has been said about how terrible the Switch version of Bloodstained is compared to the other platforms it’s available for. Low quality graphics, 30fps not 60, longer loading times, and so on. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I don’t actually care. It’s the version I wanted, and short of being broken (and it’s not) it doesn’t matter to me about the rest. And I was right, as it’s pretty much a perfect Castlevania game and I enjoyed it very much.

Not sure female rock guitarists have been a baddie in Castlevania before.

We all know it’s by Iga, so is going to be the most Castlevania game ever, but I wasn’t expecting it to be almost literally Castlevania in every way possible. Every baddie is a reskin of a classic CV foe, every character is analogous to someone from a CV game. There’s a castle, there’s a vampire, and although it’s named differently, Soma’s (from Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow) soul mechanics are here too. All it’s missing is an end boss called Dracula and Castlevania in the name.

Some sort of lab with creatures in tubes round here.

As a Castlevania game, after completing it, I felt I needed to get 100% of the map (or 100.4% or whatever it is here), but unfortunately I’ve reached 99.8% and I’m stuck as to where I haven’t opened up. I’ve resorted to checking completely unlocked maps online and comparing them with mine, and I’ve found every single hidden room shown. I’ve no idea where the remaining ones are.

Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch): COMPLETED!

“How do you complete a game where you make your own levels?”, you may ask. Well, because there’s a pretty sizeable single player mode where Nintendo show you loads of ways you might want to make levels, by giving you a hundred or so levels to work through.

I’m always astounded at the creativity Nintendo have with Mario games. You’d have thought that every possible idea in platforming has been done now, but nope – most of these levels have a new gimmick, or at the very least, a twist on a previous one. As you complete them you gain coins, and you use these coins to rebuild Peach’s castle (for unimportant story reasons).

New items for use in your home made courses are unlocked as you go along, so there’s another reason for playing Story Mode too.

As well as completing that, I’ve also played 30 or so user-made levels, which, like the first game, vary enormously. Some are huge and complicated with puzzles or skill sections, and some are little more than items placed at random on the screen. I’ve also made a terrible, short level of my own with a toilet in it, because of course I have. The ID, if you want to play it, is 3P7-5JL-CTG.

My Friend Pedro (Switch): COMPLETED!

This Shoot Is Bananas

If, like me, you were very much interested in My Friend Pedro off the back of its surprise showing at E3 last year, you may be a little disappointed to discover that it isn’t quite the dual-wielding slow motion ballet that presentation would have you to believe. But, you’ll realise that’s probably most likely for the best.

You see, all that is there. Jumping and spinning to avoid gunfire, and returning bullets in two directions at once is still a large part (and it is always impressive and makes you feel like a Big Man) of the game, but it isn’t as relentless as shown. There are platforming sections. Lasers to avoid. A bizarre level where you have a propellor hat so can effectively fly. A section on a motorbike. Door and trapdoor opening puzzles. Lots of things, in fact.

Also perhaps a surprise is how the game is actually geared towards score combo and high score arcade type play. On Normal mode, the game isn’t very difficult, checkpoints are frequent, and it’s very forgiving with plenty of aim assist and reminders to dodge bullets if you’d forgotten. It’s running through quickly, cleanly, and seeking out every baddie that nets you the big points, so the three or four hours length is mostly irrelevant. Now, I’m not a score chaser generally so that doesn’t really interest me, but the game is still great anyway.

Many people wondered how the dual aiming would work, worrying the game would be on-rails if the two analogue sticks were busy, but in fact it’s pretty simple – you lock on to one foe first, then you are free to target a second and can shoot both together. It works well, but it turns out that it isn’t used as frequently as you maybe thought. Indeed, later weapons aren’t even dual-wieldable.

So it might not be quite what I was expecting, or perhaps I’d say hoping for, but in fact it seems the game knew what I really actually wanted more than I did because the deviations from the original reveal videos are welcome and I suspect too much of the same thing would have made it a bit of a chore. It’s definitely recommended if you want what could be described as Olli Olli only Bulletstorm, but even if you’re not after a score attack game it’s funny and stylish and unusual enough to warrant a purchase anyway.

Golf Peaks (Switch): COMPLETED!

Golf Peaks is a little puzzle game where you have to get the golf ball in the hole. However, unlike actual golf, you use card with distances on for your “shots”, and various surfaces act upon your ball – stop it dead, kick it in the air, make it slide, etc.

Each “world” has it’s own new gimmick across its 12 levels, and when you’ve completed at least 9 of them you move on to the next level.

It’s quite simple, both to play and in presentation, and although a handful of the levels had me thinking for some time I’ve not really struggled. It’s no Baba is You as far as the difficulty level is concerned. With 109 levels, many of which take only a few seconds, it’s not exactly long either, but it’s certainly interesting and as it’s really cheap on the eShop at the moment it’s definitely worth a purchase.

Golden Axe III (Switch): COMPLETED!

Is Golden Axe III going to be a good game, given the previous two were not? Go on, have a guess.

At least it tried. Instead of being almost exactly the same as the other games, the graphics are all new, the animation is new, and most of the baddies are new. Reminiscent of those before, but new. There’s a different art style too, but actually, it’s worse. And there are two new characters but they’ve relegated the best one – Gillius Thunderhead – to a little less than a narrator role. You can’t play as him. I chose Tyris Flare instead, who now has ridiculous beefcake muscles.

They’ve improved the “AI” so the enemies no longer blindly walk off ledges, and for the most part the old running attack left and right “trick” isn’t possible any more. But sadly, this doesn’t really improve things. Golden Axe III is actually worse, somehow, than its predecessors.